West set this goal back in November after its 2016 schedule ended in the first round of the playoffs against Cameron Yoe. Thursday night under the lights at Waco ISD Stadium, that dream became a reality as the Trojans were handed the bi-district trophy after their 41-14 win over McGregor.
“We wanted to not just make the playoffs but to get in there and make a run at it,” West head coach David Woodard said. “This is the first step. I’m just super proud of our kids with everything they’ve done since last November when football ended.”
While the Trojans celebrated on one side of the 50-yard line, McGregor coach Judd Thrash gathered the Bulldogs together on the other side. The McGregor coach, in his first year with the program, told his players to keep their chins up.
“I was proud of the guys because they accomplished a lot of things this year that they hadn’t done in the past. They hadn’t beat Cameron Yoe since 1970. They basically accepted me as their new head football coach. They hadn’t had a new coach in a while. They also made the playoffs which hadn’t been done in several years. I was proud of them for doing that. I told them that they set a standard for the younger guys in our program. Moving forward, I’m excited. I was excited just to get here. I thought it was a goal achieved.”
The game was closely contested the first quarter. West scored first as an interception by Gerik started the Trojan offense at the McGregor 45-yard line. Seven plays later, Jacob Bates scampered up the middle 15 yards into the end zone. The Trojans went for two but failed to convert.
McGregor answered soon after when a fumble recovery by Ahmari Allen set the Bulldogs up for business at their own 47-yard line. Facing 3rd and 8, Michael Irons passed to Aaron Osborne who dodged a few defenders and tiptoed down the McGregor sideline for a 51-yard touchdown reception. A successful extra point attempt put the Bulldogs ahead.
That lead, however, lasted about two minutes. Behind big rushes by Kain Klish and Romeo Hernandez, Gerik took his first touchdown 29 yards to the house.
“I’m just so proud of our kids, the way they came out and how hard they played for 48 minutes,” Woodard said. “We knew it was going to take that against McGregor because they’re a really great team.”
After Hernandez stuffed Tayvon Thompson for a loss of five yards on first down, the Trojans forced McGregor to punt. Fueled by the defensive stop, the West offense found success again with its run game. A 33-yard carry by Gerik set the Trojans up in Bulldog territory. On 4th and 3, Gerik took it down the middle, behind solid blocking by his offensive line, for a 16-yard score.
Gerik wasn’t done. He connected with Romeo Hernandez for a 14-yard touchdown pass before the quarterback kept it himself for a 60-yard score.
McGregor scored once more with 3:37 left in the game as Irons carried the ball 16 yards into the end zone. Irons finished the night with 44 rush yards. The quarterback also completed 7 of 20 passes for 133 yards.
“Michael Irons is a warrior,” Thrash said. “He came in at quarterback several games back and almost has 1,000 yards in five or six games. That’s incredible. Michael’s a very intelligent young man. He has Ivy League schools looking at him. He’s got some Division I schools starting to jump on his bandwagon because he’s so explosive. He’s a great leader. He did a great job leading our football team.”
Leading the way for West all season has been quarterback Nathan Gerik. And if there was any doubt about him being one of the top quarterbacks in Central Texas, it was shut down after he finished with 198 rushing yards and three touchdowns as well as 89 passing yards as he completed 8 of 14 attempts.
“You get out of (Nathan) everything he’s got,” Woodard said. “He just commanded the offense tonight, ran the ball really well and made some plays in the passing game to convert some third downs like he’s done all year. He took care of us offensively and does what we need to do to get the game.”
But before all the credit and applause goes to Gerik, the junior would not have done what he did without the dominant play of his offensive line and the unselfishness of his receivers and running backs who blocked downfield so well and opened many a lane for Gerik to bust through.
“We talked in pregame tonight about everybody doing their job. On those plays we had 11 guys doing their job, and it paid off.”
Across the board, the Trojans dominated in the trenches. West outgained the Bulldogs on the ground 390-18.
“Our offensive and defensive linemen are the heart and soul,” Woodard said. “They proved it tonight with the way they controlled the line of scrimmage. We’re going to lean on those guys. We’ve leaned on them all year and we’re going to keep leaning on them. We’re going to get on their backs and go as far as they’ll take us.”
While West hopes to keep its playoff run going, Thrash knows this year’s playoff berth has laid the foundation for McGregor teams to come.
“I told the younger guys to look at the sites, see how the game goes, see how the locker room is, get a feel for what it takes to be a playoff football team,” Thrash said. “I think it set a high standard for them because they’ve been here and now they’ll want to gravitate toward the playoffs and they’ll fight hard to try to get here.”